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Design your dream career

Ashleigh Went

Do you live for shows like The Block and House Rules? Could you spend hours on Pinterest designing your dream home, or perusing the aisles of Canberra’s various design shops? Or maybe your hobbies include perpetually rearranging your furniture and décor, or cataloguing your growing collection of fabric, paint and timber samples?

If that’s the case, you might want to consider turning that talent and passion into a career and enrol yourself in an Advanced Diploma of Interior Design (MSF60113) at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT).

We caught up with three CIT graduates to find out exactly what it’s like to study at CIT, how they’re putting their skills to use in the field and what exactly a day in the life of an Interior Designer entails.

Taking the Plunge

From a young age Lauren Sharman, Senior Interior Designer at Dept. of Design, knew that she wanted to pursue a career in design. The choice to study at CIT was based on practicality – from both a geographical and educational perspective.

“I came to one of CIT’s open days when I was still living in Wagga. I’d looked at a number of courses at universities, but CIT seemed to have a bit more of a practical aspect to the way they were going to teach the course. Certainly going into the industry now and speaking to people who have done alternate courses you really can see that CIT set you up with the skills that you need, even early on in a design practice.”

For Shohan Somasundaram, Interior Designer at Cox Architecture in their Sydney office, inspiration struck a little later in life.

“I came in a bit late to the game, I was a bit older. I think I started studying when I was 24, so I did half a degree at university and then decided it wasn’t really what I wanted to do, so I took some time off and then just worked. I saw some TV shows where they were doing interior design, and that got me interested. I did a bit more investigation and found out that I could study at CIT so I applied.”

It’s not just high school graduates that enrol at CIT but professionals looking to expand their career opportunities – much like 2016 graduate, Belinda MacDonnell, Interior Designer at Daryl Jackson Alastair Swayn.

“I have been a visual merchandiser/stylist for years but needed more technical skills and wanted formal recognition of the design skills I have developed while on the job. I have always had an interest in interior design and wanted to be more involved in the conceptualisation and design process rather than the physical process of putting it all together.”

Belinda MacDonnell, Interior Designer at Daryl Jackson Alastair Swayn

Belinda MacDonnell, Interior Designer at Daryl Jackson Alastair Swayn

From classroom to boardroom

All three designers said on leaving CIT they felt well-equipped to handle the demands of the workforce.

“In hindsight,” Shohan explains “it’s the hands-on practicality that I found really great about it compared to university. CIT definitely prepared me for work – I think more than what I see now with graduates coming from university.”

“It’s a classroom setting where you get to work together, there’s that collaboration with other students which helps your design process. You’re able to give your insight to someone else’s process and they can help you – it’s kind of what actually happens in the real world, what you do in a real firm. It starts people off in the right environment.”

In addition to the learning environment, CIT encourages and facilitates student work placements, which often lead to job offers.

“I was offered a three month work placement at DJAS which has now developed into a full-time job” says Belinda.

“It is the best job I’ve ever had. I love the contrast between the intense pace of meeting a deadline and the creative process of design.”

For Lauren, her studies not only led to employment at a design firm, but also a position teaching at CIT – a testament to how much she enjoyed her studies.

Designer Days

A day in the life of an interior designer is anything but your typical office job.

Shohan explains “if I’m working on a project with other designers, generally we have a morning meeting a couple of times a week just to make sure that everyone is on track. There’s a lot of meetings, so there’s a lot of prep for those meetings, client consultations as well as research regarding products for various projects. It’s really a bit of everything.”

Shohan Somasundaram, Interior Designer at Cox Architecture

Shohan Somasundaram, Interior Designer at Cox Architecture

For Belinda, a typical day “can involve concept and design development including sketch plans, detailed floor plans, selection of materials and finishes, client presentations, design workshops and collaboration.”

The diversity doesn’t apply to just daily tasks, but also the projects themselves.

“At Dept. of Design we do a large mix of commercial, retail, hospitality, office design, to residential and multi residential,” Lauren says.

Lauren Sharman, Senior Interior Designer, Dept. of Desig

Lauren Sharman, Senior Interior Designer, Dept. of Desig

“I do really enjoy residential – we worked on a display home for Monarch Building in Yarralumla last year. I’ve worked on a hotel design which was fun, for Abode Hotel that’s going to be built in Murrumbateman. We also did a heritage pub in Goulburn, Tattersalls Hotel, which is in construction at the moment. That was interesting from the complexity of working on a historical building.”

At Cox Architecture, Shohan works primarily on large-scale projects in close collaboration with architects.

“I’m doing a large education project at the moment for the Sydney Church of England Grammar School, which is really interesting. It’s great to collaborate with architects as well – it’s a different side, getting the whole design process of the interiors is really good.”

Belinda couldn’t recommend the course and career path highly enough, offering some parting advice for future students:

“To anyone who is considering studying Interior Design at CIT, I would say go for it! The key to successfully completing the course is commitment and good time management. I think a lot of people are surprised when they realise just how involved interior design actually is!”

To find out more about CIT’s Advanced Diploma of Interior Design (MSF60113), visit their website or call (02) 6207 3188

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Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue More about the Author

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